What Florida’s Boating Regulations Mean for Your Rights After an Accident on the Water
Boating is a year-round activity in Florida. From Jacksonville to the Florida Keys, recreational boaters are a constant presence on the state’s coastal waterways—and this unfortunately means that accidents on the water are a regular occurrence.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) enforces several boating regulations. These regulations are designed to prevent accidents on the water—and they do when boaters follow them. Unfortunately, far too many boaters ignore their responsibilities, and each year this leaves hundreds of Florida residents needing to fight for just compensation with the help of an experienced boat accident attorney.
Understanding Florida’s Boating Regulations: An Overview of Boaters’ Key Responsibilities
When boaters violate Florida’s boating regulations, they can—and should—be held accountable. Simply put, there is no excuse for putting anyone else’s life or safety at risk on the water. Here are some examples of Florida’s boating regulations that are intended to protect recreational boaters and their passengers:
- Reckless and Careless Boat Operation – Operating a vessel “with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property” is a misdemeanor criminal offense under Florida law. This “willful disregard” can take many forms, from going too fast near other boats to texting at the helm. Failure to operate a vessel “in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag and other circumstances” is a non-criminal infraction that can also justify a claim for just compensation.
- Violating Federal Navigation Rules – Under Florida’s boating regulations, violations of the Federal Navigation Rules also constitute violations of federal law. This includes the rules regarding lights, sound signals, and other boater responsibilities.
- Creating Dangerous Wakes and Speeding on the Water – Florida’s boating regulations prohibit “excessive” wakes and those that create hazards to other vessels. When operating in zones posted as “Idle Speed – No Wake” or “Slow Down – Minimum Wake,” boaters must maintain headway and steerageway while operating “fully off plane and completely settled in the water.”
- Boating Under the Influence – Boating under the influence is prohibited under Florida law. Boaters over the age of 21 are presumed to be under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or above, while boaters under 21 can be prosecuted if their BAC is 0.02 percent or higher.
- Interfering with Navigation – Under Florida’s boating regulations, it is unlawful to operate or anchor a vessel in a manner that unreasonably interferes with other vessels’ navigation, except in the event of an emergency.
- Visibility on the Water – In Florida, all recreational vessels must have their navigation lights on between sunset and sunrise. Boaters must also turn on their navigation lights in fog, rain and other conditions with reduced visibility.
- Maximum Horsepower and Capacity – For monohull boats that are less than 20 feet in length, Florida’s boating regulations prohibit operators from exceeding the vessel’s maximum horsepower rating or its capacity rating. This applies to both number of passengers and overall weight.
- Reporting Boat Accidents and Rendering Assistance – Under Florida’s boating regulations, when someone causes a boat accident, he or she must give “all possible aid to the involved persons” and report the accident to the proper authorities before leaving the scene.
Again, these are just examples. When operating recreational vessels on Florida’s inland and coastal waters, boaters must exercise due care to avoid causing injury to their passengers and to other boaters. Recreational boat captains must also avoid putting kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and jet ski riders in harm’s way. While boating can be fun, it can also be very dangerous, and Florida’s boating regulations are intended to minimize the risk of injury for all waterway users as much as possible.
Understanding Your Legal Rights After an Accident Involving a Violation of Florida’s Boating Regulations
Let’s say you were injured in a boat accident, and let’s say an investigation reveals that the other boater involved in the accident violated one (or more) of Florida’s boating regulations. What does this mean for your legal rights?
If you were injured in a boat accident involving a violation of Florida’s boating regulations, you are entitled to just compensation for all of your losses resulting from the accident. This includes just compensation for the damage to your personal property (including your boat or other watercraft) as well as the financial and non-financial costs of your injuries. For example, in a typical case, the available compensation will include coverage for current and future:
- Medical, therapy and rehabilitation expenses
- Prescriptions, medical supplies and other out-of-pocket costs
- Lost income and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of companionship, consortium and enjoyment of life
While boat insurance isn’t required under Florida law, many boat owners have liability insurance that covers accidents on the water. Some lenders require coverage, and many boat owners choose to purchase coverage to protect themselves in the event of a collision. As a result, in most cases, recovering financial compensation after a boat accident involves hiring a boat accident attorney to file an insurance claim on your behalf.
Although proving that the other boater violated Florida’s boating regulations can help with your claim, this is ultimately just one step in the process. You must also prove the financial and non-financial costs of the accident, and you must be able to present a compelling case in order to convince the insurance companies to settle. None of these steps are easy, and, as a result, it is important to have an experienced Florida boat accident attorney on your side.
Discuss Your Claim with an Experienced Boat Accident Attorney in Florida
If you have been seriously injured in an accident on the water, it is important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. At Brais Law Firm, we handle boat accidents in Florida and across the United States, and we have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. To speak with an experienced boat accident attorney in confidence, call 800-499-0551 or request a free consultation online today.